As Nigeria is aiming to excel in the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia, the country is already in the race to win the undesirable Obesity World Cup.
According to a World Cup Scorecard on Obesity conducted among the 32 countries participating in the World Cup finals, Nigeria ranks among countries with lower obesity prevalence but has the highest rates of growth in overweight and obese adults.
Although the Scorecard shows that obesity is increasing among children in these countries, it showed that in 2016, the proportion of children aged 5-9 with excess bodyweight (BMI >+1sd) in 2016 was 9 per cent while 29 per cent of Nigeran adults were obese or overweight. Nigeria also ranked 150 out of 195 globally in 2016.
The Scorecard, entitled: Keeping The Score - The Global Obesity & The World Cup, shows that the obesity world cup is a world cup no country wants to win even as it is observed that Nigeria is having a 6 per cent steady growth over the last 10 years.
The Scorecard, conducted with data from the World Health Organisation, WHO, however, showed how the 32 finalists are facing an even bigger challenge than the top title in football - the obesity crisis.
Further, the Scorecard showed that although Nigeria is ranked towards the bottom, obesity is recognised as the next epidemiological burden that the country is bound to face, in the face of prevailing infectious diseases like malaria, HIV, and TB.
Data from the 2016 Nigerian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows rising obesity and overweight prevalence among Nigerian children. It shows 12 per cent of Nigerian children are obese and overweight.
Also, the number of obese children and adolescents aged five to 19 years worldwide rose 10-fold in the past four decades, a UN-backed study revealed recently.
The World Health Organisation, WHO said in the study that if current trends continued, there would be more obese children and adolescents than those moderately or severely underweight by 2022. The study led by Imperial College London and WHO was published in The Lancet.
According to the Scorecard, obesity is now a global epidemic, with rates rising across the world, including every one of the 32 World Cup finalists.
In the Scorecard, Saudi Arabia secured the unwanted title of being the country in the tournament with the highest rate of overweight and obesity.
According to latest data from the WHO, 70 per cent of adults in Saudi Arabia are overweight or obese, more than double that of the lowest ranking World Cup country, Japan.
England has the highest obesity score of the European countries and comes in fourth overall with a staggering 63 per cent of adults registering as overweight or obese. Australia (third) and Mexico (second) highlight that obesity has run rampant across the world and urgently needs action.
The Scorecard, however, noted that governments have the tools to tackle obesity which is recognised as the gateway disease to cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Obesity describes someone who is very overweight with a high degree of body fat. Being a little overweight may not cause many noticeable problems, but once you are carrying a few extra kilograms, you may develop symptoms that affect your daily life.
Recommending the way out of the current situation, the experts noted that fiscal interventions such as the soda tax, investment in physical activity, and prioritisation of childhood obesity are all proven to be successful.
Reacting to the Scorecard, Chief Executive of the World Obesity Federation, Johanna Ralston said: "These figures are a wake-up call to all the World Cup finalists. Just because you have qualified for the World Cup doesn't mean your population as a whole are healthy.
"Now is the time for bold action on obesity, including the introduction of sugar taxes, which have proven to be effective in a number of countries, including the UK."
Also speaking, Co-Chair of the WHO Independent High-level Commission on NCDs, Dr. Sania Nishtar, stated: "The obesity epidemic is a leading cause of ill-health in countries across the world, and governments in every one of these World Cup countries must act urgently to stop the crisis.
"It's important to ensure that all children are able to play sport, enjoy a balanced nutritious diet and not be targeted by health harming advertisements."
Findings shows that a growing number of countries are adopting measures to tackle obesity, it is a sign that governments are waking up to the economic and social damage of this epidemic.
Although the report of the WHO High level Commission on NCDs fell short of recommending soda taxes, it is nonetheless a measure that is increasingly being used by countries around the world as one of a range of measures to tackle the obesity epidemic.
Corroborating their views, Chair of NCD Child, Mychelle Farmer, said: "Tackling obesity doesn't have to be complicated, and countries which have recognised the scale of the problem and taken measures to fight it have already begun to see positive results. We owe it to the next generation, whether or not they grow up to be football players, to prioritise this global disease."